THE CITIZENS‘ EXPECTATIONS
What is expected of the citizen? What should a citizen expect of his/her true Democracy and structure of governance? This post will analyze these two very intense questions.
Expectations and Self-Responsibility: These are the two decisive points in any right belonging to a citizen. People have expectations of their government, their representatives and of other citizens. Yet everyone must realize with those expectations comes an equal amount of self-responsibility. Very few willingly accept the responsibility that comes with the rights and privileges gifted or receive from their constitutions and human rights acts. This is the saddest realization of all, this lack of self-responsibility. It reflects a lack of desire for self-empowerment. Worse, it reflects ignorance of self-empowerment. By that definition, the entire education and political systems have failed the very people they should serve – to teach and support the self-empowerment of the person. The education system fails because of its design, to make everyone at the same level, it fails to take into account each person, their personal gifts, talents, and skills. It fails because the political decision-making behind it is self-absorbed in power, misrule and misdirection. This is corruption of power and not self-empowerment. Granted, this may all be subconscious as other, surface-level factors are always involved; money, bureaucracy, logistics, time, number of employees (teachers, assistants, organizers) versus number of students, union(s), etc. In the end, it comes down to a simple human trait. We’re lazy. We do what is convenient for us over what is right or just, every single time. Our laziness has grown into greed.
Without judging the issue (although like everyone, I’d love to) but raising it, rather, let us look at rights and freedoms. Every right and freedom, every privilege granted every citizen comes with a level of self-responsibility. They have to. For example:
Driving is a privilege, not a right. When you receive your learner’s then your driver’s licenses, how often do you retake the driving training sessions?
the answer: Never. I don’t see any responsibility being taken. Governments update traffic laws all the time, yet drivers never update their knowledge or retake training. How many weak habits do we pick up in the driver’s seat out of shear convenience? Talking/texting on cell-phones, drinking, driving single-handed. I’m all for having less laws and more independence – yet are people willing to accept responsibility for the latter?
For example, you choose to drive home drunk and end up injuring another person, or killing them – you then should and must take full responsibility for your actions and the others’ wellbeing. But will you? It’s rather a horrifying thought, being responsible to another person you don’t know. Having to feed them, take care of their medical, their needs and the needs of their immediate family if you cause enough damage. The very concept makes everyone uncomfortable. So I ask – why not take the responsibility and allow yourself to keep abreast of the laws of the road, and perhaps learn to leave the vehicle at home when you go out for a night of alcohol and entertainment.
I’m all for mandatory driver retraining every 3 years; including cyclists. I’m both a driver and a cyclist and watching the good and the bad on the roads, I think this a marvellous idea of self-empowerment and responsibility. You have 1 license; covering all types of vehicles you drive; including the bicycle. In your retraining, if you fail at driving, you lose the right to drive for the next 3 years. That doesn’t stop you from cycling if you passed that. In 3 years time, you will be permitted to retake the driver training and test and in the duration you are ‘off the road’, you are permitted to take as much driver training as you want to improve your chances at your retesting.
Failure of responsibilities and duties must be met with infringements. If caught driving within those 3 years you are banned from driving and lose your license for life. If caught after that, you will then be working on the roads and other infrastructure that you will never be permitted to drive on again. (within reason and common sense. For example, if someone is badly injured and you’re driving them to the hospital to save their life, you’re committing an act of the good Samaritan)
Some might argue that this takes away their right to work, etc. No, it doesn’t. If you fail a test, you obviously failed to support the level of responsibility required to be a safe promoter of yourself while behind the wheel. There are other ways to get to work and support your family life. Car share, bicycle, etc. People adjust, they always do, and it makes us greater.
A bonus to this 3-year cycle is this. I promise you that over 50% of licensed drivers will lose their license the first time. That means 50% fewer vehicles on the roads, 50% of the gas not consumed, less road maintenance, more money directed to other things. 50% less toxins in the air, thus helping the environment by the removal of such a large carbon footprint. In business, it will push carmakers and designers to rethink and re-plan the marketplace. With less drivers on the road, the need for vehicles is down; so redesigning vehicles to be even more appealing – passenger size, better gas consumption – all bonuses to the bigger picture.
Voting is another great example. I suggest everyone over the age of 16 be permitted to vote. However, by voting you must prove your knowledge of the issues at hand. That means proper education and awareness and this responsibility falls into the hands of parents and schools. Young adults must be aware of what is really going on, and then be permitted to take a strong hand in contemporary politics on all levels. Why? because adults are merely passing on and handling this world for the next generation. Each generation must be held accountable for its actions and be judged by the next. By educating the young, empowering them to make choices and encouraging them to raise their voices in concerns in an intelligent way, the shaping of the country for the next generation has finally begun. Additional steps to this power of responsibility is the education of history and local/national current events. While I love the idea of mandatory participation, that won’t fly as there are introverts, extroverts, intelligent, wise, ignorant and rather busy lives. But voting itself should be mandatory. There should be an option to abstain within the vote – especially if you are unaware, or don’t care about an issue or the candidates involved.
The failure of self-responsiblity must be firm, also. If you are eligible to vote and don’t the repercussion must be your ‘donation’ of a set amount of local community hours and or pay a fine in exchange for your lack of participation in the voting booth. Refusal there and it will be jail time. Third refusal would be exile. If you don’t have a wish to take part even in simple vote, then you are showing no interest in your community and are not part of the community.
In ancient Greece, citizenship was more than as a duty. It was tied to your physical participation at all levels of the city-state. Your participation defined you in the eyes of your peers and, I suspect, within yourself.
I understand very few of us want to get involved due to our busy lives. note, though, I’m only discussing your active participation in voting, not in deep-action participation within the government. Voting where and when you can, that is a responsibility and is, sadly, not a right, but a privilege. By this I don’t mean legally. I mean by the examples we show each other. with so few people voting, the few who do turn out look like a privileged class. Perhaps they are. the privileged minority of intelligent, caring beings. But then, I think we all have it within us. So vote, municipal, provincial, and federal.
I shall end this blog here. I could go on forever, hence the delay in bringing this to the WordPress site. It’s taken me a while to collect my thoughts. That being noted, I shall add and discuss other rights and privileges as they pop into my mind.
Good night and warm regards,
By the way; if you have an interest in the action and role of Greek Citizens in the heyday of Attic Greece, check out the following. They are both amazing books and will lead you into many others:
Joint Association of Classical Teachers (2008) The World of Athens: and Introduction to Classical Athenian Culture: chapter 5: Athenian Society
Cartledge, P. (editor) (2007) Cambridge Illustrated History of Ancient Greece: Chapters 4-6